Save yourself from unsafe food
Consuming safe food is as important as having nutritious food. Cleanliness, hygiene and proper storage of food at the right temperature and the right time is essential to keep your food safe from bacteria, viruses, harmful toxins and chemicals. Young children, elderly and pregnant women are more prone to risks from food contaminants because of lower immune strength.
Food borne illnesses can be avoided by following these steps:
- Refrigerate food at temperature lower than 4ºC. The food should be refrigerated within 2 hours after cooking. If you stay in a hot and humid climate, then the food should be immediately consumed after cooking and leftovers should be refrigerated within an hour. This reduces growth of extremely harmful bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes which can grow at temperatures as low as 4ºC.
- Cook meat and eggs thoroughly and pregnant women should completely avoid consuming partially cooked meat, fish and eggs.
- Wash and clean all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before chopping. Partially cooked meat, eggs and fish, unwashed vegetables and fruits, soil, dust and cat litter can contain a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii which is known to be harmful to the growing fetus.
- Wash hands after handling raw meat, unwashed vegetables, dirt, soil, using the bathroom, handling a pet and after an outing.
- Pest Control: Keep your home free of pests, flies and rodents which can spread bacteria, parasites and viruses to exposed food and utensils.
- Don’t Mix: Keep utensils used for marinating raw meat and raw eggs separate from other cooked food and salads to avoid contaminating them.
- Chopping Boards made from plastic are known to be friendly for bacterial growth. Hard wood chopping boards provide best protection from germs. Chopping boards should be washed with water and dish-wash soap immediately after use.
- Consume In Time: Perishable food items should be kept refrigerated and consumed in time.
- Reheating refrigerated food (defrost the food in the refrigerator or faster defrosting can be done in the microwave): Liquids – Defrost, bring them to a boil before consuming. Solid or semi solids –Defrost, and cook/ heat to a safe high temperature (depending on the food type) immediately. Avoid keeping refrigerated food out at room temperature.
- Drinking water should be purified (free from germs and harmful chemicals) before consumption (for drinking and cooking).
- Reduce use of plastic containers for keeping warm or liquid food. Prefer glass or stainless steel for such purpose. Air tight plastic containers can be used to safely store dry food items like grains and cookies.
- Used utensils should be thoroughly washed in warm water and soap after use. Leftover food particles offer growth sites for germs.
- Always buy fresh and properly packaged food. Observe the “Best before” or “Use By” date before buying.
– Expect the Best by Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.
– Feed the Belly by Frances Largeman-Roth, RD[ratings]